Puppy Scam: Con Artists Put On Innocent Face

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The envelope bore a British stamp, which was exactly what Payson resident Dan Frost expected. But inside was a check for $4,500 as payment for one of his yellow Labrador retriever puppies.

They were good puppies, but not that good.

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Payson resident Dan Frost was the target of a surprising new scam to take his puppy and his money.

Earlier that week, Frost placed a classified ad in the Payson Roundup to sell his yellow Lab puppies for $350 apiece. The ad was included on the newspaper's Web site, payson.com.

"I received a call from a person who said they were a relay operator for the deaf," Frost said. "They led us to believe they were a third party helping a deaf man who wanted to buy a puppy."

The buyer said they would be sending certified funds to cover the cost of the dog and the shipping to England. Frost was to contact the buyer through e-mail when the check arrived.

"They said they would arrange to have a courier come to my house to pick up the dog," Frost said. "At that time, our further instructions were to pay the courier fees, keep our portion and send any remaining balance back to the buyer in England.

"When I opened the envelope and saw that the check was for $4,500, I knew there was something wrong," Frost said. "I went to the bank it was drawn on, Bank of America, and their infrared machine said it was fake."

The check, while expertly made, was also missing the identifying watermarks.

"The thought did enter my mind that maybe, because of the exchange rate from England, that somebody just made a mistake," Frost said. "It made me really angry that it was so easy for someone to fake a check. I would have lost the dog and $4,500 because I would have cashed the check against my bank account. I started thinking about all the older people who might have been more trusting. I hope nobody else falls into this situation."

Frost took the check to the police. Officers hoped to catch the scam artist or an accomplice by having Frost pretend to go through with the deal. But Frost thinks the scammer suspected a setup, because the courier never came.

Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner said Frost did everything right after becoming suspicious.

"When someone is offering something that is too good to be true, they are trying to steal from you," Gartner said. "It was pretty obvious what was happening (in this instance). It was a scam."

"This puppy thing is a new one," said banking center manager Rick Korth of Bank of America in Payson. "The con artists were just banking on (Frost) sending back a check. That's the newest scam. For the most part (the scams) originate from out of the country. Since it's a phony check, it could take 14 to 21 days or more to clear. So in the meantime, the customer sends legitimate funds back. The culprit ends up with thousands of dollars and the customer's account goes negative."

Korth said this is the same scam approach used by phony lotteries. "People just want to believe. And the scam artists take advantage of seniors."

Korth's advice is the same as the Chief Gartner's.

"If it seems too good to be true, it is."

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